California Vaquero History St. Francis Retreat Old San Juan Bautista Mission
Vaquero Heritage DaysDates

Quick Dateline History

Rancho San Justo & San Juan Bautista, California

1797 Old San Juan Mission established under Franciscan Friars with vast ranchlands

raising herds of cattle, horses and sheep. Mission known for “music & fiestas”.

1822 Spanish rule ends. Mexico ruling begins.

1833 Secularization of Missions – land divided into “ranchos”.

1836 Rancho San Justo 34,615 acres land grant to Rafael Gonzales which he eventually


1839 Rancho San Justo acquired by General Jose Castro who shortly thereafter sold to

Francisco Perez Pacheco.

1846 Captain Freemont under General Castro chose San Juan as staging area with

troups in readiness for Mexico/U.S. confrontation.

1848 Territory transfers to U.S. who honors Mexican land grants

1848 The Breens (Donner party pioneers) first anglo family to settle in San Juan.

1849 Flint brothers with cousin Bixby came west from New England to the California gold mines, ultimately forming Flint/Bixby Company acquiring ranchos throughout central and southern California, primarily ranching sheep (start of wool industry), cattle and horses.

1850 California admitted into Union.

1855 Rancho San Justo purchased by Dr. Thomas Flint, brother Benjamin Flint & cousin Llewellyn Bixby with Colonel William Wells Hollister as a partner in half of Rancho acreage.

1858 Miller & Lux cattle barons obtained vast ranch lands surrounding San Juan.

1862 Great flood of San Juan Valley, San Juan community marooned for one week.

1863 Flint/Bixby built New England style large home on 73 acres Rancho San Justo

housing all their families under one roof.

1868 Colonel Hollister sold his half of Rancho San Justo to San Justo Homestead Association which developed community of “Hollister”.

1869 Bustling San Juan housed 9 stores, 8 saloons, 2 hotels, 2 barbers, 2 express

offices, 1 telegraph, 1 physician, 2 lawyers, 2 public halls, 2 newspapers,

soon added 1 brewery.

1869 Flint/Bixby Company operated The Coast Line Stage running from San Jose to

Los Angeles.

1869 First railway San Francisco to Gilroy, expanded to Hollister by passed San Juan.

1871 Exodus from San Juan, businesses moved to Hollister and rail access.

1874 San Benito County created, broke away from Monterey.

1875 Chinaman Jim Jack “Mustard King” cleared wild mustard on 10K acres of

Rancho San Justo for Flint/Bixby family.

1880 Thomas Flint elected as state senator.

1896 Flint/Bixby Company dissolved. Rancho San Justo land divided by heirs.

1922 Rancho San Justo acquired by Madame Leila Butler Hedges.

1947 Franciscan Order of Friars Minor acquired the 73 acres Rancho San Justo

(homesite and various structures) for use as a retreat center and Friars home.

2006 Fire destroyed the main historic Flint/Bixby ranch house, no injuries but all documents and furnishings lost. No other buildings were damaged.

2009 New St. Francis Retreat Center main building constructed through donations

and loans. Restoration and maintenance efforts on-going.


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